(Newser) – The Israeli military carried out its largest daytime airstrike campaign in Gaza since the 2014 war Saturday as Hamas militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel, threatening to spark a wider conflagration after weeks of tensions along the volatile border, the AP reports. No casualties or major damage was reported on either side, and Israel said it was focused on hitting military targets and was warning Gaza civilians to keep their distance from certain sites. But it still marked a significant flare-up after a long period of a generally low-level, simmering conflict. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus says the latest Israeli sortie, the third of the day, struck some 40 Hamas targets including tunnels, logistical centers, and a Hamas battalion headquarters.
He says the escalation was the result of the sustained Hamas rocket attacks, its fomenting of violence along the border, and its campaign of launching incendiary kites and balloons that have devastated Israeli farmlands and nature reserves. “Our message to Hamas is that we can and will enhance the intensity of our effort if needed,” he says. “What Hamas is doing is pushing them ever closer to the edge of the abyss … Hamas will have to understand that there is a price to be paid.” On Friday, thousands of Palestinians gathered near the Gaza border for their near-weekly protest. A 15-year-old Palestinian who tried to climb over the fence into Israel was shot dead. Later the military said an Israeli officer was moderately wounded by a grenade thrown at him. Gaza’s health ministry said Saturday that a 20-year-old struck by gunfire Friday during the protests in the southern Gaza Strip had also died of his wounds.